Now that you hired a lawyer, your next question is what happens now. In most cases, the short answer is “not much” – at least from your point of view.
In our office we provide you with a questionnaire to fill out. Some of the information we might already have, and some we don’t. In order to effectively represent you we need as much information as possible not just about the case, but just as importantly about you. Our job is to make sure you are treated as an individual – and not just another number. We can only do that if we have information about you.
Information we need includes some of the following:
Biographical information – name, age, birthdate, employment, spouse’s name and children
Employment information, including what you do, who you work for, and how long you have worked there
Case information – we need to know as much information as possible about what led up to you being arrested or charged. The basic information will be in the police reports – what we need to properly represent you is “the rest of the story”. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and many times the most important things we need to know are not in the police reports.
The first thing to do is to start obtaining information. You have been arrested, which means that at some point an affidavit for arrest warrant was prepared (in rare cases your case may have been submitted directly to the district attorney or a grand jury, and a warrant was issued after the charges were filed in court). They affidavit may have been done at the jail, or it may have been done by an officer and submitted to a judge. This affidavit will contain some basic information about the case; there has to be some reason to put you in jail, which must be approved by a judge. Sometimes the arrest affidavits are fairly detailed, but most of the time they are not. However, it does give us some general information as to why the police believe you committed an offense.
Once you are placed in jail, whoever arrested you will prepare a report. That is a routine part of police work. Not surprisingly, some officers take more time preparing reports than others. The report should contain everything that is important to the case. This report is what the district Attorney uses in deciding whether to charge you, or what to charge you with.
Once the report is ready, it is delivered to the District Attorney's Office, where it goes to the intake division. Generally, those are lawyers whose only job is to review all the reports that come in, decide what charges to file, and prepare the charging documents. Once they make that decision, they are done with the case. It will then get assigned to another attorney who handles cases in the court where it is filed.
It should not be a surprise that the intake attorneys look at hundreds of cases. Generally, the only thing they look at is the offense report. Their review is limited to determining whether the report contains facts that support the charge. They are not going to make decisions on whether they believe certain witnesses were credible or not, unless it is extremely unusual situation. They also will rarely request additional information or do any additional investigation. They leave that to the attorney who has the case assigned to them.
There's not much that can be done at this stage. In some cases there's information we believe the district attorney needs to be aware of before making a decision, and we can provide that. However, this is not the point where negotiations are conducted. The only information they are interested is information or facts which might suggest a charge should not be filed. This is not the place to try the case, or try to convince the district attorney that they don’t have a case they can win in court.
At the same time we request the arrest affidavit we also make a request to the District Attorney's Office for discovery. That discovery will generally be the offense report prepared by the police officer. When you get that depends on the type of case. For Misdemeanor cases, the policy in McLennan County is that they will not furnish discovery until the charge has been filed. The policy is different in felony cases. There, discovery is provided before the case is to the grand jury. Generally, there is going to be some delay between the time the request for discovery is made, and the information is received by our office. During that time, there is not really anything we can do.
Once we receive the discovery, we review it and start making decisions making decisions about how to proceed. That process will be discussed in another article.